By Kefiloe Kajane
Liqhobong Diamond Mine is set to resume operations after a more than a year’s closure due to the lockdown measures as a result of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has been announced by the mining minister Serialong Qoo that the company running Liqhobong mine, Firestone Diamonds would restart mining activities this week in the Botha-Bothe district.
Qoo said upon the reopening of the mine, employees who were engaged at the facility would resume their previous duties. He said those employees had clean work records.
In the event of new ones being rolled in, Qoo said, priority would be given to the locals.
He said such priority would be extended to the Basotho nationals with diligent consideration in the areas of sub-construction and catering so as to beat unemployment.
Qoo added that with the aim of growing the country’s economy, his ministry was hunting for an expert to advise the government on the diamonds mining industry in relation to stones’ quality and value. That, he continued, would enable the state authorities to make clear decisions about the gems industry both locally and internationally.
Just four days before an announcement of a lockdown, Firestone Diamonds, a British-owned company, last year said it would suspend its operations for a three-week period. It cited safeguarding its employees and the adjacent community against the infectious coronavirus was highly regarded.
The virus has killed millions of people across the globe since its emergence in December 2019 when it was detected in China.
Firestone Diamonds said only essential care and maintenance services and security would not be suspended.
Liqhobong Mine is partly owned by Firestone Diamonds through a 75 percent shareholding. The Lesotho government owns the remaining stake.
Still last year in an unprecedented turn of events, Firestone Diamonds announced that it would not resume operations at Liqhobong immediately after the lockdowns ended on April 21.
It said it was in the best interest of all stakeholders to “rather preserve the limited mine life at Liqhobong mine and the limited cash resources of the group for as long as possible to ensure the mine can start up again when the market recovers.”
The company’s directors believed then that it would take about a year before the diamond markets recovered.